Amidst a sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Sindh government in Pakistan reimposed a week-long lockdown in the entire province on Saturday, July 31. The restrictions will be partial and are likely to last until August 8.
Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah announced the declaration of a lockdown during a press conference on Saturday, stressing that the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi. “I know people will not be comfortable with lockdown, but to limit the numbers of cases it was inevitable,” Shah said.
Schools, restaurants, and all private offices in the province have been advised to remain shut, the minister added. Essential services such as courts, petrol pumps, and other basic services including groceries, meat and bakery shops will remain open till 6 pm.
On Monday, August 2, federal planning minister Asad Umar in another press briefing said that the restrictions between August 3 to 31 will be extended in a number of other cities as the fourth wave continues gaining momentum.
On Sunday, August 1, the country recorded 5,029 COVID-19 cases, the highest since April 29. Sindh, with at least 30 deaths and more than 2,772 new infections in the previous 24 hours, was the worst affected. It was followed by Punjab with 18 deaths and 709 cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with six deaths and 591 cases, and three other provinces where eight deaths were reported.
As per the National Command and Operation Center, “the new cases were detected in Pakistan against 56,965 tests and took the overall national tally to 1,034,837.”
“The positivity rate of the daily cases was recorded at 8.8% up from 8.46% the previous day. Meanwhile, 62 more coronavirus-related fatalities raised the country’s death toll from the disease to 23,422,” said the body which oversees the country’s response to the emerging health crisis.
With the emergence of a new strain, Punjab authorities have issued an alert after recording five cases of the Epsilon strain that was recently detected in Lahore. This variant was initially found in California last year and has been second most dominant in New York.
Authorities, especially in Punjab and Sindh, have deemed the emergence of Epsilon a new threat for the region, considering its high transmission tendency, almost similar to the Delta variant which is the most dominant one in Pakistan. Several doctors have expressed concern that the situation could become terrifying in the coming days and have sounded the alarm over increased pressure on hospitals with more cases.
Last week, doctors based in Karachi issued a statement warning that there would be a surge in the number of cases, particularly among the people who are not vaccinated yet, which as per a Sindh health department study, “accounts for over 85% of admission to ICUs in recent days.”